Yarn art by the Huichol Indians sounds like a simple concept until you glimpse a piece on the wall that brings you face to face with the intricate work that went into creating not only a picture, but an art piece. Carmen Porras co-owner of Arrayan restaurant had a few of the beautiful pictures on her wall. She explained that to make these paintings the artist spreads beeswax on a board, sketches out a design then fills it carefully pressing the colored yarns into the wax.
Arrayan authentic Mexican cuisine is just one of the places I saw this intricate art work while attending the NATJA travel writing conference. During an art work I learned that the Huichol Indians are one of the best examples of Pre-Columbian tribes and their way of life and belief system is still intact today. According to the Mexico Huichol Resource Page, the tribe members, are, “Descendents of the Aztec…”
With a population of around 18,000, most live in the sierra of Jalisco and Nayarit. “Having withstood the Spanish Invasion, they are still striving to keep their culture alive and viable, despite the ever increasing physical and cultural encroachment of their Mexican neighbors. Peyote is a focal point for their ceremonies, and their colorful beadwork and yarnwork reflects a reverent and symbiotic relationship with nature,” the website (http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/190-mexico-s-huichol-resource-page-their-culture-symbolism-art) states.
The artwork is available in part due to the Peyote People, a fair trade co-op and art gallery where they profile art created by the tribe. The monies from the art helps the Indians preserve their traditional rituals and ceremonies.
Besides the yarn paintings, they are also well known for their wood carvings and Indian bead art.
The Huichol art is not only in the galleries, but also on the walkways. The Malecon, a pedestrian promenade/walkway runs alongside the beach stretching to the central downtown area and old town. The Malecon is filled people, shops and market stalls, restaurants and of interesting and very distinctive sculptures. In the case of the Malecon the sidewalk itself is art filled with several of the Huichol symbols. The symbols were created with small pebbles. The Peyote People Guide to Huichol Symbols on the Malecon explains the symbols. “These symbols come from the Huichol Indian and have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years.”
The symbols revolve around the shaman and medicine men that consume hallucinogenic peyote cactus to speak to their gods that pass on through their visions. The visions tell the shaman where to hunt deer and when to plant corn. The art is created as an offering to appease the gods.
The Indian artist Jose Benitez’s son Fidencio explained the symbolism in a yarn painting he created for Puerto Vallarta. The painting reflects Huichol beliefs that their life began in the ocean then evolved on to land. “These symbols taken from this yarn painting and put into the Malecon celebrate not only the relationship between the ocean and the land, but also between Puerto Vallarta and the Huichol.”
A few of the symbols include agricultural associations like the corn, “The lifeblood of the Huichol from the gods. There are five colors of corn that come from Great Grandmother’s five daughters.”
Peyote while not thought of as a crop in a traditional way is the predictor used for when to plant the “lifeblood of the Huichol” and the sacred cactus is the “doorway to the spiritual world”.
These symbols and other art can be found at the galleries Peyote People and Collectika. Log onto www.peyotepeople.com for more information.